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Friday, December 31, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 31

Today I am thankful that a new year starts tomorrow!

It probably comes as no surprise to you that I am more than ready to bid 2010 farewell. There have definitely been some positives this year—Living Stones Church, our new house, a fun trip to Mexico with our friends, and Baby Davis coming into existence, to name a few). But as we look forward to a blank slate and fresh start in 2011, there will also be a lot of 2010 that I am ready to leave in the past—having to pack up and move, living on a new and not so glamorous budget, Brian’s parents moving away, oh, and that whole not being able to have a baby thing.

Regardless, the nice thing about having somewhat of a bumpy year this past year means that I have fairly low standards, and therefore it probably won’t take much to impress me in 2011. How’s that for aiming high?

I am not really the type to make new year’s resolutions, but if I were, here are a few that might make the list:

1. Make fewer awkward jokes about being barren in public.
2. Eat more DQ blizzards. (You might not believe this, but I think I only ended up eating 6 or 7 the whole year—shameful, I know!)
3. Spend less time (and money) at the fertility specialist’s office.
4. And for that matter, spend less time and money at the pharmacy.
5. Try to go an entire year without mentioning any variation of the word “cockroach” on the blog.
6. Find something to add into my lunch rotation in addition to turkey sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches.
7. Find a new breakfast to replace Raisin Bran… yes, I think I am officially tired of it (4 years later).
8. Renew my commitment to my quest for all things townie.
9. Participate more fully in Pancake Saturdays.
10. Get pregnant.

I’m not really going to get my hopes up that I will accomplish any of these, and you are not allowed to hold me accountable for them either. Yes, Brian, that means you—no force-feeding me stacks of pancakes or trying to peer pressure me into making trips to Dairy Queen a weekly occasion. (I know, my husband is borderline abusive, isn’t he?)

Anyway, to end on a positive note (that’s a change), I am going to share a passage that I have shared before, because I think it is fitting for the new year: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” - Lamentations 3:22-23

Happy new year, readers! Here’s to giving 2010 the boot!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 30

Today I am thankful for this 31-day challenge!

Some days I have been able to come up with something that I am thankful for pretty effortlessly, while others have indeed been a challenge. There have been several nights where I have sat down at the computer and whined loudly to Brian that I didn't feel like being thankful for anything. But I can say with certainty that it has been a good reminder to look past my momentary trials and remember just how blessed I am and how much worse life really could be.

Yes, we are going through a pretty sizable struggle at the moment, and I don’t want to make light of that. I hope that even though most of my posts have been pretty lighthearted, it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to brush my real feelings under the rug. Because even though I haven’t been as in your face with all the reasons why I think my life is really hard right now… I still think my life is really hard right now :)

But what this challenge has done is helped me to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. Yes, we are struggling to get pregnant, BUT it is good to remember that this struggle doesn’t define me.

It’s funny because the last post I wrote before the challenge began referenced the song “Praise You in This Storm,” which I have continued to listen to over the past month. And really, isn’t that exactly what the 31-day challenge has been about, finding a way to praise God even while life seems crappy?

And while I will admit that I have been very tempted to create my own version of the song (called “I’m Tired of Praising You in This Storm,” or perhaps “Please Get Rid of This Stupid Storm NOW”) lately, I really am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to live the song out.

So if you are in need of a little encouragement to do the same, my challenge is for you to comment with one thing you are thankful for today—whether or not you’re currently experiencing a storm. Hopefully it will provide a little encouragement for me, too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 29

Today I am thankful for sleep.

It's ironic that I'm writing this right now, because it's actually 10 pm on a Tuesday night, which is approximately 30 minutes after I usually go to sleep. But perhaps it's not all that ironic, because right now I am more aware than usual of just how much I desire sleep.

I am a big proponent of trying to fit my 8+ hours/night of sleep in each night, which is admittedly a tough task since I get up so early. Throw in the fact that my husband is a night owl, and unfortunately that typically means I am getting 7-7.5 hours/night. I know, I know, it's a tough life I lead.

Usually when I wake up in the morning (unless I have something particularly exciting to look forward to that day), I am sincerely sad that I'm not asleep anymore. And I actually start thinking to myself, "Ok in just 16 or 17 hours, I get to go to sleep again!" and that helps me get through the day. I have even been known to list sleeping as one of my favorite hobbies.

You might be surprised that someone who thrives on productivity as much as myself is such a fan of sleep, but hey, after all the work I accomplish in a day, I need some rest! :)

Oh, and I should also clarify that while I do love sleeping, I despise napping. I would rather pull an all-nighter than take a nap. Naps make me groggy and usually I wake up feeling sleepier than I did before the nap. Allison is the same way, so as you can imagine, we did not deal well with afternoon siesta time when we spent that summer in Spain. Typically we spent our siesta walking around the local grocery store because it was the only thing that stayed open. Thrilling, I know.

Ok well this is probably the most generic post I've ever written, but I also have a feeling that you will all echo my sentiments, so I'm not going to apologize! And on that note, I'm off to bed (even though you are reading this at 8 am or after)... sweet dreams!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 28

Today I am thankful for baths.

I know I have declared my love for baths before, but I don't think you all really understand just how much I love them. If I had to choose between never eating chocolate again or never getting to take a bath again, I would give up chocolate. Yes, it's that serious.

First of all, I can think of no better way to relax. Some people drink to take the edge off after a long day- I take baths. I have often pleaded with Brian to just let me sleep in the bathtub so I wouldn't have to get out. I think he would go for it if I didn't also request that he refill it with hot water every 15 minutes.

I am also a firm believer that there is no bad day that can't be made better by a bath. Whether it was after a traumatic high school break-up, a frustrating day at work, or yet another doctor appointment with the doctor more or less declaring that he hates my uterus (any other Baby Mama fans out there?), I have always been able to count on a bath to put me in a better mood.

I think it has something to do with the fact that there is very little that I can do in the bath- no tv, no cell phone, no computer- so I am left alone with my thoughts, and I don't know about you, but sometimes the only way I will actually deal with my thoughts is if I have no other choice but to do so.

I am particularly thankful for baths in my new bathtub, because unlike in the last house, it isn't a disturbing shade of yellow, it isn't covered in mold, and it is (to my knowledge) 100 % cockroach-free. Apparently I have low standards.

So here's to you, baths. Thanks for always being there for me!

Monday, December 27, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 27

Today I am thankful for Google Analytics, because just like last year, it allows me to easily determine the top 10 posts from this past year!

So join me as we take a scroll down 2010 memory lane...

10. Blog love - This one was actually written by Allison in an attempt to cheer me up after a particularly crappy visit to the ol' Reproductive Endocrinologist. I couldn't tell you which visit, however, because there were approximately 7 million of them :)

9. A note from Rocky and Tucker - This was for sure one of my favorite posts of the year, so I can understand why you all liked it, too. Whether or not Rocky and Tucker appreciated it is another question...

8. It's about time they start paying me for all this free advertising, don't you think? - I unveiled my new Dairy Queen shirt, and apparently you were all pretty excited about it!

7. Next thing you know I'm going to come down with dysentery - Perhaps you appreciated the absurdity of my doctor asking me to "relax my uterus," or maybe you were just all trying to figure out how to earn a free $50 gift card.

6. There's no "i" in "team," but there is most definitely an "i" in "infertility!" - This is where I apologized to the world for being so self-absorbed.

5. 31-Day Challenge - Day 23 - I am somewhat offended that yet another of my most popular posts was written by Allison and not me, but I suppose I can't complain since I did ask her to sub in for me that day...

4. Disclaimer: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog - Depressing shows on Discovery Health and a persistent cricket named Joseph... no wonder this post was so popular!

3. I'll just let her do the talking - The infamous post in which I, by way of Allison, first shared about our struggles with infertility. Now here's the part where I try not to focus on the fact that she is 5 months pregnant and I'm, well, not :)

2. Mystery solved - After I spent the first 4 months of the year neglecting the blog (among other things), I informed you all about some big changes in the lives of the Joiners.

1. The new casa de Joiner: Unveiled - Yes, apparently the most popular post from 2010 was the one in which I showed you our new house. I'm thankful to say we still love it as much today as we did the day we moved in!

So there you have it. Feel free to let me know if there was a memorable post that you think should have made the list!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 26

Today I am thankful for the greatest Christmas present I ever received (ok, besides baby Jesus).


Hello loyal followers of Amanda! Brian here, and I hijacked the blog to tell the greatest story ever told. (How about that, two Bible jokes in one post! Must be the pastor in me) Well maybe the second greatest story ever told.

Brian very kindly let me read the post before it was published, so he agreed to let me share my editorial comments in red. Enjoy!

There used to be a time when Amanda and I weren't married or engaged, and that time period is where this story takes place. At the time, Amanda and I had been dating for 3 years and I was starting to feel the pressure to ask her to marry me. I guess the pressure started about the time of Allison and Wade's wedding. I will never forget the moment at the rehearsal dinner where Amanda's wonderful mom was talking about all the kids and their respective significant others. As she went around the room talking about how Wade (Allison's husband) was a welcome addition to the family, how Ford (Amanda's older sister Elizabeth's husband) was such a great husband to Elizabeth, how Kelly (Amanda's brother's fiancée) was going to be family soon, and finally how I (just the Amanda's boyfriend at the time) "Was... well... around." No kidding - exact phrasing.

For the record, I did not put my mom up to this one. But I didn't stop her either...

So there I was "around" and feeling the pressure. I knew before the wedding I wanted to marry Amanda, but lacked the means to propose to her properly. By means, I mean a ring to give her. So I had to wait, and I had to make her wait as well. And as we all know, Amanda sometimes has a problem with waiting for things, especially those things which she really wants.

Who, me? Oh, and you should also know that when Brian asked my dad for permission to propose, he started off by saying, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to do this sooner." My dad's response? "Hey- if anyone deserved to be made to wait, it's Amanda!" Thanks, Dad.

Fast forward about 4 months and it is Christmas time. I was now prepared to propose because I had a job that allowed me to save up enough money to buy a ring for her and I had enlisted Allison and Wade in my plan to propose to her. I contacted Allison and Wade a few weeks prior and asked them to help make a scavenger hunt for Christmas day that they would pretend would end with them giving us Christmas gifts, but that would really end with me proposing.

We decided the spots on the scavenger hunt should include the big Christmas tree at Zilker park (since our first date was around Christmas time), the soccer field at Westlake High School (since Amanda and I enjoyed playing soccer together), the church parking lot (since she worked there and we knew ministry was in our future), and finally down by the lake where I would propose. Each spot had a gift associated with it, that Amanda would at first assume were from Allison and Wade to both of us, but were actually from me and, as you have read, had some significance to our relationship. I bought the gifts and Allison and Wade made a soundtrack with clues on where we were going next (thankfully they gave us a copy so we still occasionally listen to the CD).

I was wearing Brian's jacket, by the way, because a certain kidnapping couple refused to let me get a jacket before we left the house.

So, after Christmas dinner, we were "kidnapped" by Allison and Wade and our "scavenger hunt" began. I am pretty sure Amanda had no idea where we were going most of the time, and just thought that Allison and Wade felt sorry for us since we missed them and that was why they were taking us around town. But, I think she started thinking something was up around the time we were on our way to our last stop at the lake when the audio clue on the CD was the song "Everyday Love" by Rascal Flatts.

A few thoughts here:

1. My family already knew the proposal was coming on Christmas day, so for the days leading up to Christmas, they made sure to make plenty of jokes about how they were all married off (or almost married off), while I would grow old alone with a house full of cats. Hysterical.

This might not have been a very sneaky plan for anyone whose sister and brother-in-law hadn't kidnapped her in the past, but being that they had kidnapped me just a few months before to take me to take me to dinner & dessert, I really wasn't suspicious when they blindfolded us and threw us in the back of their car. I was, however, a little confused as to why Brian wasn't more alarmed...

3. The music played on the way to each stop went along with the next stop... ie: Christmas music on the way to the tree, work-out music on the way to the soccer field, and worship music on the way to the church. So when the love song started playing, I was very concerned that Allison & Wade were going to take us somewhere and give us a boring lecture about marriage. Ha!

When we finally arrived at the lake, Allison and Wade said our gift was down by the water. My heart started pounding in my chest. As we walked down there, I really don't remember thinking anything other than "OH MY GOODNESS, I AM ABOUT TO PROPOSE!" When I got down on one knee and asked her to be my bride, her first reaction was "SHUT-UP!" I wasn't sure what to think until she spoke again a couple seconds later and said "OF COURSE!"

I know, very classy response.

After a little bit more time being excited together down by the lake we met Allison and Wade by the car who were congratulating us and had one more clue for us. The clue said we were supposed to go back to Amanda's parents' house. When we arrived our families were there to celebrate the engagement with us!

So yeah, not a bad Christmas present, right? I would say this was the greatest present I have ever received since she is my wife and that is a gift that never stops giving (ha, I'll remind you of that next time I'm nagging you about something), and I am pretty sure she would agree with me on this being the best present she ever received as well. I will never stop being thankful for her, and love her more everyday. Cheesy? Maybe. But I don't really care!

It's true- it really was the greatest present I have ever received... a shiny new ring AND someone to kill all the bugs in my house forever and ever, amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 25

Today I am thankful for the birth of Jesus. Because while I do enjoy all of the gifts I receive on Christmas day, it's important to remember and be thankful for the greatest gift of all - a Savior.

I'm sure a lot of you have seen this on facebook lately, but I found it entertaining and worthy of sharing. Basically it's the story of Jesus's birth as it would have been told if facebook existed at the time.

In case you are too lazy to click on the link above, I'm including the youtube version below for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy:

Also, if you haven't ever read the actual account of Jesus's birth in the Bible (or if you just haven't read it lately), here's a link to Luke 2.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 24

Today I am thankful for ElfYourself!

I'm sure you have all seen ElfYourself before, but it is worthy of mentioning because it's always good for a laugh. I even recently elfed Allison, Wade, and Baby Davis, but the ultrasound picture kind of made him look like a creepy ghost, so I'll leave it up to them as to whether or not they want to share it :)

Anyway, if you haven't checked out the site yet, be sure to go visit and elf yourself or someone you love this Christmas!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present the elfed Joiner family. Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 23

Today’s post is coming to you today from me, aka: Allison, the best twin sister in the world. Amanda claims the internet is not reliable enough where she is at the moment, and to avoid failing her 31 day challenge (since the word “fail” is not in her vocabulary), she has asked me to cover for her. So here I am!

And since I have the power, I get to decide what Amanda is thankful for today: and that is our upcoming trip to New York City. A few months ago, Wade and I decided to head back to NYC (we went there last December) in January as one last hurrah before our little one comes along. We were chatting about the trip with Amanda and Brian at Thanksgiving and casually mentioned that they should come with us, and after a little bit of peer pressure, we actually convinced them to come along!

I should also point out that they are getting a really good deal by coming with us – I have already been working on our itinerary for the past couple of months (shocking, right?), so basically all they have to do is show up and follow along! Who wouldn’t kill for a free tour guide who already knows your likes and dislikes? Anyway, we are really excited to go on this trip with them and looking forward to all the fun New York-y things we’re going to do while we’re there, including:

Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity

Visiting Lady Liberty

Strolling through Central Park

Seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway

Stopping by the living taping of the Today Show on the Plaza

Try not to be too jealous. We'll be sure to do a full recap of the vacay afterward so you can try to enjoy it vicariously through us!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 22

Today I am thankful for my job.

As you have likely noticed by now, I typically do not blog about work. So while I will attempt to elaborate without going into too much detail, this post will likely be fairly brief!

One of the things I appreciate most about my place of work is the location. As you may or may not know, Houston is ginormous (I can't believe spell check didn't have an issue with that word...). When we moved to Richmond and I started my job search, I was very insistent that I did not want a long commute that would force me to spend more time in the car each day than I do at home. Thankfully, my office is just 9.9 miles away in Sugar Land, and only takes me about 20 minutes to drive to/from. It is safe to say Brian is also thankful for this, because I don't think he could handle having to listen to me complain about my commute on a daily basis :)

I am also thankful for the people I work with. Being in human resources, I get to work with a lot of girls (which does have its ups and downs), but thankfully my department also has a lot of girls that are around my age. This wasn't a given at my company because I work in a very male-dominated industry, so I am thankful to have people that don't freak out when I cry at my desk and that share my affinity for eating chocolate when the work day gets stressful.

And while I have always been thankful for the stability that my job offers (benefits, pay, etc.), I am especially thankful for it this year. Brian's job transition has definitely been a financial hardship, especially when we picked up that monthly mortgage along with all of the super fun home-owning bills, but we consider ourselves very fortunate that God has continued to provide for us and meet our every need (and then some) with my job.

So in case you, too, are feeling a little under-appreciated at work right now or just wishing you could sit at home and watch Law & Order all day instead of slaving over tasks that never seem to have an end, I hope this is a reminder to you to also be thankful that you're employed.

Oh, and I should also mention that I am thankful for PAID VACATION, which has made my current one-week break from work possible :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 21

Today I am thankful for my family (the Joiner edition)!

To continue on yesterday's theme, today you get to read about why I am thankful for my other family- the Joiners. This will be a slightly shorter post, because where as my immediate family + spouses + kids amounts to 14 people, Brian's immediately family + spouses (me) amounts to 5 people. I feel fortunate that I get to have the best of both worlds - one large and crazy family, and one small and crazy family :)

Terrie & Don - I am most thankful for my wonderful father-in-law, Don, because he is so selfless. He serves his family and strangers alike, and never (ok, rarely) complains about doing so. And even though he is quieter than the rest of us, he still has plenty to say and especially loves telling cheesy jokes :)

I am thankful for my mother-in-law, Terrie, because she has always treated me as her own daughter. She hems my clothes for me, plays me in Words with Friends, gives me thoughtful gifts, and even makes a special meal for me if she knows I won't like what the rest of the family is eating. She is also a great cook, so she can even make something as boring as grilled chicken tasty!

Shannon - Ok so as you may recall, Shannon got her own post the other day. But I love her so much that I'll still come up with one more reason. I am thankful for her affinity for games- she loves playing pretty much all board and card games, and it seems that at every holiday gathering, she has somehow learned a new game that she is able to teach the rest of us. I also get a good laugh watching her and Brian compete... they are generally very sweet to each other, but the sibling rivalry most certainly comes out when they are going head to head.

We are very fortunate this week to be able to spend some time with BOTH of our families for Christmas, and for that, we are very thankful (I wonder how many times I have typed that word in the past 21 days...) :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 20

*FYI, I did a day 19 post but it is hidden beneath the Christmas card post, so be sure you didn't miss it!

Today I am thankful for my family (the Nelson addition)!

I never really felt like I was part of a "big" family growing up, until we moved to Austin and for whatever reason, all of my friends had only one other sibling. Having 4 kids + 2 parents + countless pets over the years certainly kept things interesting at my house, as you can imagine! And now we are all married off, with 4 grandchildren (and 1 on the way), so suffice it to say that our lives have only gotten busier and more interesting :)

I am thankful for my family for so many reasons, not the least of which is how much they make me laugh. I really and truly think I have the funniest family there is, although all of the spouses might substitute "strangest" for "funniest"... and they are probably right about that one, too.

So allow me to break down why I am thankful for the family formerly known as Nelson (and now known as Nelson + Wheeler + Oliver + Joiner):

Steve, aka: "Pop Pop" & Betsy, aka: "Franny" - I am thankful for my mom and dad for so many reasons, but probably the first that comes to mind is how generous they are. My dad is the ultimate impulse buyer, and he really likes to save the day, so if you say that you wish you had something or implied that your life would be greatly improved if you had something, chances are, he would go out and get it for you. And he would, of course, buy all of the accessories that go along with it :)

My mom is the same way- gift-giving is most definitely her love language. She always gives thoughtful gifts, and not just at birthdays and Christmas! We have a joke that she even buys gifts for Arbor Day- no complaints here! Recently she gave Brian and me the creche for our nativity scene just because- not even as an early Christmas present, but just because she knew we would like to have it!

Elizabeth & Ford - I am thankful to be able to consider them as not just my older sister and brother-in-law, but as friends! Elizabeth was not always kind to me and Allison growing up, and more than once we were yelled at for trying to hang out with her and her friends. Thankfully, she has more than made up for that now and even though their lives are slightly busy with 4 kids under the age of 6, they always make time for us.

Andrew & Kelly - Andrew is easy- I am thankful for his sense of humor. Although it is often highly inappropriate, and even sometimes at my expense, he does always keep us laughing. I am thankful for Kelly because she balances out Andrew- she adds a dose of sanity to their marriage and makes sure that things like birthdays and anniversaries are remembered. I also appreciate that she and I share some of the same OCD tendencies, although our husbands might not be so appreciative of that :)

Allison & Wade - I am thankful that the Olivers are our very best friends! It is a given that Allison and I enjoy spending time with each other, but growing up, I don't think we ever would have imagined that our husbands would enjoy hanging out with each other so much as well. And on top of that, we all 4 also like hanging out together. Oh, and it's a bonus that all of our imaginary friends get along so well, too, because I think you'll all agree that there was some serious potential for that not to be the case with all the conflicting personalities going on.

I am, of course, thankful for my wonderful nieces, Emma & Mary Frances, and nephews, Brown & Sayers, because (a) they are the cutest kids on the planet, (b) they always act really excited to see me, therefore giving me a false sense of popularity, and (c) they are a wonderful substitute until we have kids of our own one day.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's feature on the Joiner family!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Joiners!

Charming Holly Wreath Christmas
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31-Day Challenge - Day 19

Today I am thankful for our house!

I know I acted excited about it back in April when we first moved in (and believe me, I was), but I don't think I have expressed recently just how much I love it.

First of all, we have still not seen one single cockroach since we lived here. Not one! I think the worst bug I have encountered since moving in is a spider so tiny and cute that I actually felt sorry for it and let it live rather than calling in my personal exterminator (also known as "Brian") to take care of business. I think I actually sleep better as a result of the absence of roaches in this house and in my life.

Also, it never smells like musty old people or cat pee, and compared to our last house, that is a huge accomplishment. In fact, even if we haven't cleaned it in a week or two, it still actually smells pretty decent. This means I don't spend my days fearing that someone will just stop by the house and be alarmed at the fact that our cat-free house smells suspiciously like cat urine.

Our neighbors leave their houses! We really did like the people we met in our old neighborhood, but we were fairly certain some of them were vampires, because we never saw them come outside. In our new 'hood, whenever we go for a walk or run (even at 5:30 in the morning), we see other people out and about as well. This might have something to do with the fact that our neighborhood is occupied by mostly young families whereas our old neighborhood was occupied mostly by the elderly.

Oh, and our new neighbors also go trick-or-treating and decorate for Christmas.

But back to the house- it's quiet. And spacious. And I like the tall ceilings. And the laminate floors- especially when Noah and Buster run into the house and slip and slide across them as if they have forgotten the floors are slippery since they last came in 2 hours before.

I also like my big, clean, mold-free bath tub and the fact that I don't have to put on my makeup on the floor of the closet. And I like that our garage is functional and attached to the house.

And did I mention that we don't have any cockroaches?

Anyway, I am thankful that we have a house at all, and even moreso that we love it so much. It is easy to forget just how fortunate we are when we get used to having something on a regular basis, but today's post is a good reminder to be thankful to God for those things and not take them for granted. So in order to do so, I'm now going to go give each of the rooms of our house a hug. I'll be sure to let you know how that works out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 18

Today I am thankful for thoughtful friends (and family). (Warning: Cheesy, although totally necessary, post ahead!)

Recently I received a sweet card from my friend, Sara, and much to my surprise, a gift certificate for a pedicure along with it! She said that she knew the last few months had been tough for me, and thought I might need a de-stresser of sorts. Coincidentally, the nail place is right by my doctor's office, so for a change, I can turn into that parking lot without dreading any bad news or impromptu public meltdowns!

A package from my high school friend, Elizabeth, showed up in the mail recently filled with FIVE cd's worth of songs from Glee just to cheer me up. And cheer me up she did, because I have jammed out to all of them (perhaps the one with "Don't Stop Believin'" 500 or so more times than the others) during my commute to and from work, which has been a nice alternative to crying while listening to "Never Grow Up" and "Innocent" from Taylor Swift's new album.

My sister-in-law, Kelly, so kindly sent me candy in the mail not long ago along with a $5 off coupon for pregnancy tests! Yes, that might seem funny to some of you, but only to those of you who have never had to go through multiple packs of them in your lifetime... because trust me, when you go through yet another pack with no positive outcomes, that candy is absolutely necessary!

And I can't even begin to recount all of the gestures my sissy has made in an effort to pull me out of my semi-regular pits of despair... remember this post? Or the time she asked everyone that thinks I'm awesome to "like" her status on facebook (for the record, at least 28 people in this world are on board with that)? Or the time that she made me an "Infertility Sucks" word search? Or the time that she, knowing that finances are a little tight for us at the moment, asked my very generous dad to get us tickets to Phantom of the Opera so that we can go with them when we're in NYC next month? I could seriously go on for days, but it will only make me feel like a sub-par twin sister, so I'll stop here! :)

In addition to these thoughtful acts, I have received countless phone calls, text messages, e-mails, blog comments, and facebook messages from people just asking how I'm doing, or telling me they are praying for me, or sharing stories of people they know in similar situations.

So much of our "fertility journey" has been humbling for me (what do you mean I can't get pregnant just because I want to? Are you trying to tell me I don't always get what I want when I want it?!), but particularly the kindness and grace of friends and strangers like these. I am confident that God has used this experience and these people to teach me about the importance of being a thoughtful and generous friend myself, and it is my hope that even in the midst of my current preoccupations, I can do the same for the people in my life.

I used to have a flip calendar (that a friend actually gave me when I moved from Dallas to Austin in 8th grade) with an inspirational quote for each day. Most of them were a little too cliche for my liking, but there was one that I liked so much that I tore it off of the calendar and left it up on my bulletin board for years to come, so that's what I'll close with now:

"To have a good friend is one of the highest delights in life; to be a good friend is one of the noblest and most difficult undertakings."

Friday, December 17, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 17

Today I am thankful for Pecan Grove's Christmas lights!

Pecan Grove is a neighborhood near ours in Richmond that happens to be known for its, shall we say, "festive" outdoor Christmas decor. And as promised, Brian and I drove around last night to check them out.

All I'm going to say is that while I wouldn't necessarily want to achieve some of these looks for our own yard, I can most definitely appreciate them in someone else's. Sorry I didn't take more pictures... you'll just have to use your imagination on the rest. But for now, enjoy these gems:

These decorations have been the same every year that we have gone by- which would be every year since 2004. I think they're really subtle don't you?

I am really just confused by this one. I just don't understand how Kung Fu Panda fits in to the whole Christmas theme...

Same house... because nothing says, "Merry Christmas!" quite like an inflatable nativity scene.

In comparison, this one actually looks pretty tasteful!

And now for the grand finale...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 16

Today I am thankful for Brian's and my date-aversary!

Yes, that's right, 7 years ago today, Brian and I went on our very first (official) date. If you want to read all about it, go back to my post from last year. To commemorate the occasion last year, we watched Serendipity, and this year we have big plans to go look at Christmas lights. The nice thing about the fact that our first date lasted around 12 hours and included so many activities is that it will always be pretty easy to repeat at least one of them when the date rolls around each year!

While I knew that I liked Brian at least enough to hang out alone with him (how's that for a compliment?) after our first date, I can't say that I knew we would end up where we are today. But I am so thankful that we have, and can't imagine life any other way or with any other person.

And in memory of the "top 9 things I like about Amanda" poster that Brian so sweetly gifted me on our first date (how could I not marry him after that?), I will now share with you 9 reasons that I am thankful for Brian:

9. He has blossomed into quite the domestic husband. When we were dating, I had my doubts that he would ever pick up on some of the basics such as "dirty clothes go in the laundry basket rather than the floor" and "the bathroom needs to be cleaned more than semi-annually." However, I am proud to say that Brian not only helps with the cleaning of the house, but he is also cooks dinner AND does the laundry. I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to have such a helpful partner-in-crime, so thank you, Brian for making my life easier :)

8. I can't imagine any better father to our imaginary friends. It's true. He loves them as if they were real. He once seriously almost purchased a Build-a-Bear for Baby Girl. I can only imagine how easily he will be persuaded once we have real children!

7. He is thoughtful and unselfish. Example: Recently he used part of his remaining balance on an iTunes gift card to buy me the ad-free version of Words with Friends app for my iPhone just so that I wouldn't have to deal with those pesky (and incessant) ads! Oh, and he fills up my Nalgene bottle every night before bed so that I won't have to do it the next morning :)

6. He is obedient to his calling. Being a pastor's wife is hard. Trust me on this one. But from what I can tell, being a pastor is approximately a million times harder. Whether it's dealing with overbearing youth group parents or enduring the financial strain of working in ministry, I know there are times when he has wanted to throw in the towel, but each time, he submits his frustrations to God and presses onward. I am thankful for this example that he provides because it encourages me to be more obedient to God's calling in my own life!

5. He is competitive. You would think I would talk about how the fact that he strives to be the best makes me want to be the best too, but that's not it. In fact, more often the opposite is true because I really don't like it when he "beats" me (good thing that never happens, right, Brian??). The real reason that I am thankful for his competitive nature is because of the advantage it gives us when we play on the same team :) I'm sure there is some metaphor for marriage there somewhere...

4. He is a man's man. He loves sports. He kills bugs without batting an eye. He knows how to use tools. He sleeps with a baseball bat next to our bed. I appreciate that he makes me feel safe and that he could help us to survive if we were ever to end up in a situation like Lost.

3. He is the eternal optimist. For every negative thought and disparaging remark I make, he has an equally, if not more so, positive and upbeat response. Sometimes I want to take his half-full glass and shatter it into little pieces with a baseball bat. But in the end, I am always appreciative and thankful for his (sometimes blind) conviction that everything will, in fact, be ok in the end.

2. He is smart! We often argue about which one of us is smarter (because that's healthy, right?), and though I am often quick to boast myself as the winner of that contest (refer to #5), I am admitting here and now that we are evenly matched. If you thought I was going to declare that he is smarter than I am, then you must not have been reading this blog for very long! Regardless, we are smart in different ways. I am more book smart and he is more street smart. And although there are times when I would really prefer that he keep his seemingly useless trivia to himself (did you know Donald Duck's middle name is Fauntleroy?), I also have to admit that it has been helpful on more than one occasion. And yes, many of those have been in competitive game situations :)

1. He is cute! It probably makes me seem shallow that this is the number one reason, but if we are all being honest, it is really the reason I agreed to go on a date with him in the first place. Oh, and his sparkling personality, too, of course :) Anyway, at the end of a long day at work, it certainly is nice to come home to his handsome face. Plus, it eases my worries about ever having ugly children!

So there you have it, folks. Happy date-aversary to you, Brian- I love you!

(Pic taken in 2004, about 4 months after we started dating)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 15

Today I am thankful for my Nalgene bottle.

I first started using a Nalgene when I worked at Camp Ozark back in 2003, and as anyone that knows me will tell you, have had one attached to my side ever since. I really only drink water (with the rare exception of an occasional Sprite if I’m feeling crazy), so I have found this to be a much more convenient way to keep it on hand than to use cups or regular plastic bottles.

Each bottle holds 32 ounces, and I usually drink around 3 per day. And while yes, staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is good, as you can imagine, this means that much of my day is used up taking trips back and forth to the ladies’ room :)

In case you are wondering why the Nalgene is so wonderful, then you should know that (a) it is almost impossible to break, and (b) it’s well-insulated, so my water stays cold. AND it is dishwasher safe and BPA-free (although this is a recent development, so sadly, my A&M bottle from 2005 is no longer safe for regular use… unless I would like to get cancer and die).

Here’s another fun fact—I also gave Brian a Nalgene for our first Christmas together. Naturally, it was red because that is our mutual favorite color. In case you’re thinking that’s sort of a cheap gift, then you should know that we had only been dating for 15 days by the time our first Christmas together rolled around. And you should also know that I baked him cookies, too, so don’t feel too sorry for him.

So if you are ever looking for an inexpensive gift for me or maybe a friend that does not stay well-hydrated, now you know what to get. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 14

Today I am thankful for Shannon Gale Joiner!

For those of you who are not privileged to know her, Shannon is Brian's one and only sister, thereby making her my sister-in-law. And today, my sweet sister-in-law just happens to be turning 22!

When I first met Shannon back in 2003 (about a month after Brian and I started dating), she was only 15 years old and a freshman in high school. Hard to imagine that she is now a college senior! I have loved watching her "grow up," but even more than that, I have loved having her as a sister.

A few fun facts about Shannon:

1. She is an advocate for cats... more specifically for her own lovable cat, Annie.
2. She is almost my exact match for food pickiness. There are a handful of foods that she will eat and I won't or vice versa, but for the most part, we have the same (slightly unsophisticated) palates.
3. She was born with a birthmark on her hair that makes one patch of her hair black (although it has since turned gray).
4. She also attends the wonderful Texas A&M University and is also a Chi Omega- yet another way that we are sisters :)
5. She has very particular taste. Once we went shopping for a long-sleeved A&M shirt (in College Station, land of A&M t-shirts, mind you) and after 2 or so hours, she simply could not find one that fit her needs. I appreciate that she has standards and sticks to them :)
6. She is a beast at Words with Friends. She taught me everything I know, and it always amuses me how frustrated Brian gets when she is beating him in a match!
7. She has an affinity for ordering off of the kids' menu. This might have something to do with #2...
8. She is a great "aunt" to our imaginary friends and often speaks to them by name- she is especially close to Natalie, the little girl duck!

She is also thoughtful, sincere, generous, loyal, and smart, and is committed to putting her faith into practice in everything she does. I admire her greatly and am thankful to be able to call her family :)

And now a few pictures of Shannon for your viewing pleasure:

Happy birthday, Shannon! We love you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

31-Day Challenge - Day 13

Today I am thankful for Christmas movies.

Yep, another Christmas post. And no, I am not sorry.

My favorite old school Christmas movie is without a doubt the clay-mation Rudolph movie:

I am also a big fan (as are all other people my age) of the always classic Home Alone:
I am thankful for these two because they take me back to simpler times when all I had to worry about at Christmas was forcing myself to sleep past 6 am on Christmas day.

As far as newer Christmas flicks go, my two favorites are also pretty obvious choices:

Both of these movies actually came out around the time Brian and I started dating, and in fact, Elf is the first movie we saw together. We also happened to watch it last night! Anyway, I am thankful for them because anything that reminds me of Christmas AND the beginning of our relationship is a win-win in my book. And on that note, Serendipity should also get an honorable mention because we watched it on our first official date, and now that we have it on DVD, plan to make it an annual tradition :)

So which Christmas movies are you thankful for?